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Last Updated: May 31, 2019
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In 2018, a group of the world’s largest crude oil and natural gas producers added more hydrocarbons to their resource base than in any year since at least 2009, according to the annual reports of 116 exploration and production (E&P) companies. During 2018, these companies collectively added a net 10.3 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) to their proved reserves, which totaled 286 billion BOE at the end of the year. Total exploration and development (E&D) costs incurred in 2018 for these companies increased 4% from 2017 levels, but declined 9% from 2017 when calculated as dollars per BOE of proved reserves added. This analysis is based on published financial reports of these 116 companies and does not necessarily represent the financial situation of private companies that do not publish financial reports.

Of the 116 companies, the top 18 held more than 80% of the 286 billion BOE in proved reserves at the end of 2018. Although many of these companies have global operations, some are national oil companies with reserves and operations concentrated in their home countries including Russia, China, and Brazil. Proved reserves change from year to year because of revisions to existing reserves, extensions and discoveries of new resources, purchases and sales of proved reserves, and production. Figure 1 illustrates the 116 companies’ combined proved reserves changes during 2018.

Figure 1. Regional proved reserves for 116 exploration and production companies

Organic additions to proved reserves—those added through improved recoveryand extensions and discoveries—are linked directly with expenditures in E&D. Proved reserves acquired through purchases and sales represent transfers of assets between companies (including companies outside this group) but are not reflected in E&D expenditures. Revisions to proved reserves can be highly influenced by changes in crude oil and natural gas prices but less directly influenced by E&D investment.

Of the 21.0 billion BOE in organic proved reserves added in 2018 (that is, before accounting for revisions, net reserves purchased, or how much the companies produced), slightly more than half (10.7 billion BOE) came from the United States, while the Russia, Central Asia, and Asia-Pacific region accounted for 4.0 billion BOE (19%). Canada added 2.1 billion BOE (10%) and Latin America added 1.6 billion BOE (8%). Europe and the Middle East and Africa region each added fewer than 1.0 billion BOE, accounting for about 4% of global organic proved reserves additions each (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Regional organic proved reserves additions for 116 exploration and production companies

Global E&D costs incurred increased for the second consecutive year in 2018, increasing 4% to $319 billion. Of this total, 38% ($122 billion) came from the United States, with the Russia, Central Asia, and Asia Pacific region accounting for 26% ($83 billion) and all other regions accounting for less than 10% each. Changes in nominal year-over-year E&D costs incurred varied across regions, increasing by 33% in Europe, 13% in the United States, and 3% in the Middle East and Africa region. Costs incurred declined by 2% both in the Russia, Central Asia, and Asia Pacific region and Latin America, while spending in Canada was essentially flat compared with 2017 (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Regional exploration and development costs incurred  for 116 exploration and production companies

Because significant cost deflation has occurred in the oil and natural gas industry since 2014, nominal costs incurred in different years may not be directly comparable. Finding costs provide an indicator of the expenditures needed to add a barrel of proved reserves. Because of the disparity between the timing of companies’ capital expenditures and the formal reporting of changes to their proved reserves, standard practice is to average the results over several years.

Analyzed this way, three-year average costs declined on a per BOE basis in 2016–18 compared with both the 2013–15 and the 2010–12 averages (Figure 4). The three-year average E&D costs incurred per BOE of organic proved reserves additions in 2016–18 were lower than their respective 2013–15 and 2010–12 averages in all regions except Latin America, where the 2016–18 average was slightly higher than its 2010–12 average. On an annual basis, the 2018 E&D costs incurred of $15.20 per additional BOE of proved reserves was the lowest since at least 2009.

Figure 4. Finding costs for 116 exploration and production companies

For further analysis and a list of the companies included in this study, see EIA’s annual Financial Review. Later this year, EIA will issue its annual U.S. crude oil and natural gas proved reserves report which focuses exclusively on proved reserves located in the United States, including all U.S. producers (publicly traded and privately owned companies).

U.S. average regular gasoline and diesel prices decrease

The U.S. average regular gasoline retail price fell 3 cents from the previous week to $2.82 per gallon on May 27, down 14 cents from the same time last year. The Gulf Coast price fell over 4 cents to $2.47 per gallon, the West Coast price fell nearly 4 cents to $3.63 per gallon, the Midwest price fell 3 cents to $2.71 per gallon, the East Coast price fell nearly 3 cents to $2.70 per gallon, and the Rocky Mountain price fell less than one cent, remaining at $2.98 per gallon.

The U.S. average diesel fuel price fell more than 1 cent to $3.15 per gallon on May 27, 14 cents lower than a year ago. The price in each region fell over one cent. The West Coast price fell to $3.78 per gallon, the Rocky Mountain price fell to $3.18 per gallon, the East Coast price fell to $3.16 per gallon, the Midwest price fell to $3.04 per gallon, and the Gulf Coast price fell to $2.89 per gallon.

Propane/propylene inventories decline slightly

U.S. propane/propylene stocks decreased by 0.1 million barrels last week to 65.8 million barrels as of May 24, 2019, 9.8 million barrels (17.5%) greater than the five-year (2014-2018) average inventory levels for this same time of year. Gulf Coast and East Coast inventories decreased by 0.7 million barrels and 0.5 million barrels, respectively. Midwest and Rocky Mountain/West Coast inventories increased by 0.9 million barrels and 0.3 million barrels, respectively. Propylene non-fuel-use inventories represented 8.0% of total propane/propylene inventories.

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The Impact of COVID 19 In The Downstream Oil & Gas Sector

Recent headlines on the oil industry have focused squarely on the upstream side: the amount of crude oil that is being produced and the resulting effect on oil prices, against a backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. But that is just one part of the supply chain. To be sold as final products, crude oil needs to be refined into its constituent fuels, each of which is facing its own crisis because of the overall demand destruction caused by the virus. And once the dust settles, the global refining industry will look very different.

Because even before the pandemic broke out, there was a surplus of refining capacity worldwide. According to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019, global oil demand was some 99.85 mmb/d. However, this consumption figure includes substitute fuels – ethanol blended into US gasoline and biodiesel in Europe and parts of Asia – as well as chemical additives added on to fuels. While by no means an exact science, extrapolating oil demand to exclude this results in a global oil demand figure of some 95.44 mmb/d. In comparison, global refining capacity was just over 100 mmb/d. This overcapacity is intentional; since most refineries do not run at 100% utilisation all the time and many will shut down for scheduled maintenance periodically, global refining utilisation rates stand at about 85%.

Based on this, even accounting for differences in definitions and calculations, global oil demand and global oil refining supply is relatively evenly matched. However, demand is a fluid beast, while refineries are static. With the Covid-19 pandemic entering into its sixth month, the impact on fuels demand has been dramatic. Estimates suggest that global oil demand fell by as much as 20 mmb/d at its peak. In the early days of the crisis, refiners responded by slashing the production of jet fuel towards gasoline and diesel, as international air travel was one of the first victims of the virus. As national and sub-national lockdowns were introduced, demand destruction extended to transport fuels (gasoline, diesel, fuel oil), petrochemicals (naphtha, LPG) and  power generation (gasoil, fuel oil). Just as shutting down an oil rig can take weeks to complete, shutting down an entire oil refinery can take a similar timeframe – while still producing fuels that there is no demand for.

Refineries responded by slashing utilisation rates, and prioritising certain fuel types. In China, state oil refiners moved from running their sites at 90% to 40-50% at the peak of the Chinese outbreak; similar moves were made by key refiners in South Korea and Japan. With the lockdowns easing across most of Asia, refining runs have now increased, stimulating demand for crude oil. In Europe, where the virus hit hard and fast, refinery utilisation rates dropped as low as 10% in some cases, with some countries (Portugal, Italy) halting refining activities altogether. In the USA, now the hardest-hit country in the world, several refineries have been shuttered, with no timeline on if and when production will resume. But with lockdowns easing, and the summer driving season up ahead, refinery production is gradually increasing.

But even if the end of the Covid-19 crisis is near, it still doesn’t change the fundamental issue facing the refining industry – there is still too much capacity. The supply/demand balance shows that most regions are quite even in terms of consumption and refining capacity, with the exception of overcapacity in Europe and the former Soviet Union bloc. The regional balances do hide some interesting stories; Chinese refining capacity exceeds its consumption by over 2 mmb/d, and with the addition of 3 new mega-refineries in 2019, that gap increases even further. The only reason why the balance in Asia looks relatively even is because of oil demand ‘sinks’ such as Indonesia, Vietnam and Pakistan. Even in the US, the wealth of refining capacity on the Gulf Coast makes smaller refineries on the East and West coasts increasingly redundant.

Given this, the aftermath of the Covid-19 crisis will be the inevitable hastening of the current trend in the refining industry, the closure of small, simpler refineries in favour of large, complex and more modern refineries. On the chopping block will be many of the sub-50 kb/d refineries in Europe; because why run a loss-making refinery when the product can be imported for cheaper, even accounting for shipping costs from the Middle East or Asia? Smaller US refineries are at risk as well, along with legacy sites in the Middle East and Russia. Based on current trends, Europe alone could lose some 2 mmb/d of refining capacity by 2025. Rising oil prices and improvements in refining margins could ensure the continued survival of some vulnerable refineries, but that will only be a temporary measure. The trend is clear; out with the small, in with the big. Covid-19 will only amplify that. It may be a painful process, but in the grand scheme of things, it is also a necessary one.

Infographic: Global oil consumption and refining capacity (BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2019)

Region
Consumption (mmb/d)*
Refining Capacity (mmb/d)
North America

22.71

22.33

Latin America

6.5

5.98

Europe

14.27

15.68

CIS

4.0

8.16

Middle East

9.0

9.7

Africa

3.96

3.4

Asia-Pacific

35

34.75

Total

95.44

100.05

*Extrapolated to exclude additives and substitute fuels (ethanol, biodiesel)

Market Outlook:

  • Crude price trading range: Brent – US$33-37/b, WTI – US$30-33/b
  • Crude oil prices hold their recent gains, staying rangebound with demand gradually improving as lockdown slowly ease
  • Worries that global oil supply would increase after June - when the OPEC+ supply deal eases and higher prices bring back some free-market production - kept prices in check
  • Russia has signalled that it intends to ease back immediately in line with the supply deal, but Saudi Arabia and its allies are pushing for the 9.7 mmb/d cut to be extended to end-2020, putting the two oil producers on another collision course that previously resulted in a price war
  • Morgan Stanley expects Brent prices to rise to US$40/b by 4Q 2020, but cautioned that a full recovery was only likely to materialise in 2021

End of Article

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May, 31 2020
North American crude oil prices are closely, but not perfectly, connected

selected North American crude oil prices

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, based on Bloomberg L.P. data
Note: All prices except West Texas Intermediate (Cushing) are spot prices.

The New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX) front-month futures contract for West Texas Intermediate (WTI), the most heavily used crude oil price benchmark in North America, saw its largest and swiftest decline ever on April 20, 2020, dropping as low as -$40.32 per barrel (b) during intraday trading before closing at -$37.63/b. Prices have since recovered, and even though the market event proved short-lived, the incident is useful for highlighting the interconnectedness of the wider North American crude oil market.

Changes in the NYMEX WTI price can affect other price markers across North America because of physical market linkages such as pipelines—as with the WTI Midland price—or because a specific price is based on a formula—as with the Maya crude oil price. This interconnectedness led other North American crude oil spot price markers to also fall below zero on April 20, including WTI Midland, Mars, West Texas Sour (WTS), and Bakken Clearbrook. However, the usefulness of the NYMEX WTI to crude oil market participants as a reference price is limited by several factors.

pricing locations of selected North American crudes

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration

First, NYMEX WTI is geographically specific because it is physically redeemed (or settled) at storage facilities located in Cushing, Oklahoma, and so it is influenced by events that may not reflect the wider market. The April 20 WTI price decline was driven in part by a local deficit of uncommitted crude oil storage capacity in Cushing. Similarly, while the price of the Bakken Guernsey marker declined to -$38.63/b, the price of Louisiana Light Sweet—a chemically comparable crude oil—decreased to $13.37/b.

Second, NYMEX WTI is chemically specific, meaning to be graded as WTI by NYMEX, a crude oil must fall within the acceptable ranges of 12 different physical characteristics such as density, sulfur content, acidity, and purity. NYMEX WTI can therefore be unsuitable as a price for crude oils with characteristics outside these specific ranges.

Finally, NYMEX WTI is time specific. As a futures contract, the price of a NYMEX WTI contract is the price to deliver 1,000 barrels of crude oil within a specific month in the future (typically at least 10 days). The last day of trading for the May 2020 contract, for instance, was April 21, with physical delivery occurring between May 1 and May 31. Some market participants, however, may prefer more immediate delivery than a NYMEX WTI futures contract provides. Consequently, these market participants will instead turn to shorter-term spot price alternatives.

Taken together, these attributes help to explain the variety of prices used in the North American crude oil market. These markers price most of the crude oils commonly used by U.S. buyers and cover a wide geographic area.

Principal contributor: Jesse Barnett

May, 28 2020
Financial Review: 2019

Key findings

  • Brent crude oil daily average prices were $64.16 per barrel in 2019—11% lower than 2018 levels
  • The 102 companies analyzed in this study increased their combined liquids and natural gas production 2% from 2018 to 2019
  • Proved reserves additions in 2019 were about the same as the 2010–18 annual average
  • Finding plus lifting costs increased 13% from 2018 to 2019
  • Occidental Petroleum’s acquisition of Anadarko Petroleum contributed to the largest reserve acquisition costs incurred for the group of companies since 2016
  • Refiners’ earnings per barrel declined slightly from 2018 to 2019

See entire annual review

May, 26 2020